Support for Anti-encryption Laws Crumbles

The FBI's hopes for a laws to weaken encryption and require tech companies to build back doors through device security features seems to be crumbling because support in Congress is evaporating. A draft bill from Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) isn't going to to be introduced, and even if it was, there isn't any support for it.

Support for anti-encryption bill fizzles outSupport for anti-encryption bill fizzles out

Word of the draft bill surfaced in March, and quickly drew concern. The wording was vague and would've given Federal judges the authority to force companies to create tools to aid law enforcement with breaking through the smartphones, computers, and other tech devices they make and sell.

The draft was floated in the wake of the FBI's very public fight with Apple over unlocking an iPhone 5c recovered from last December's San Bernardino mass shooting. In that incident, Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 of their coworkers and injured 22 others. They were later killed in a shootout with police.

The FBI enlisted Apple's help to recover data from the iPhone since it had been issued to Mr. Farook by the country. Apple handed over the data they could recover from the iPhone's iCloud backups, but didn't have the means to unlock the device or bypass the lockscreen security.

FBI agents turned to the courts for an order compelling Apple to write a special version of iOS that didn't include lockscreen security measures, but the company resisted over claims it would weaken security for all iPhone users and that the government was acting outside of its authority.

The FBI ultimately dropped its legal fight with Apple after finding a mysterious third party that could hack into the iPhone. That wasn't, however, the end of the story because the FBI and Department of Justice are still pursuing other criminal cases where they've been pushing for court orders to hack into devices.

That crusade still poses a serious threat to privacy, security, and encryption, although it doesn't seem to have the backing it got when the San Bernardino case was in the limelight. Law makers are backing away from supporting potential bills, and even the White House isn't interested in offering its support, according to Reuters.

Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, who has been following the FBI's efforts closely said President Obama's administration has "dropped anchor and taken down the sail."

That's bad news for the FBI and DOJ's efforts to strip away digital privacy and security in the name of safety, but good news for everyone who uses an electronic device or has any personal information stored in a computer. Public and political support for the FBI and DOJ's anti-encryption platform is waning—at least until the next high profile case. For now, it looks like it took a lot of taxpayer money for the FBI and DOJ to learn they don't have overwhelming public or political support.